Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities

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Director of Mayor's Office For People With Disabilities Wins International Award

December 6, 2018 -- Maria Town, director of the city’s Office for People with Disabilities, has received an international Henry Viscardi Achievements Award, which “honors exemplary leaders in the global disability community who, through the example of their professional accomplishments and advocacy efforts, are reshaping societal perceptions and making significant changes in the quality of life of people with disabilities.”

Town accepted the award in New York City this week. The award commemorates the vision of the Viscardi Center’s founder, Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who wore prosthetic legs. A premier disability advocate, he served as an advisor to eight presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter, and implemented groundbreaking employment and education programs that continue to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Town was one of five people in the United States to receive an award along with five others from other nations.

“I am pleased to see Maria Town’s world-class work recognized at the highest level, bringing global recognition to the community of people with disabilities and the overall caring spirit of Houston,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “She is an exceptional servant leader who sets a great example for all municipal employees. I am proud to have her as a member of my executive team.”

The Viscardi Center wrote:

“In her role at the Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Maria has newly engaged a broad range of stakeholders across the disability community, including racial, ethnic and other diverse groups. A role model for other young women with disabilities striving for leadership positions, her recent achievements include securing members of the Houston Commission on Disabilities from ethnically and racially diverse communities; working actively to ensure services of the office she directs are fully available to members of under-served communities; and leading Houston’s Hurricane Harvey disaster response for people with disabilities by proactively gathering community leaders and service organizations for daily solution sessions.

“Working in several high profile political and public service positions for over a decade, Maria Town has demonstrated the power of youth, wisdom, experience, knowledge, and passion. Through her work with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, the Office of Public Liaison at the White House, and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in Houston, she has set in motion policies and programs that facilitate independent living and self-determination for people with all types of disabilities.”

The 2018 award selection committee was co-chaired for the sixth consecutive year by Robert Dole, former U.S. senator, along with Sherwood “Woody” Goldberg, Esq., retired U.S. Army Colonel and current Senior Advisor for Asian Affairs at the Center for Naval Analysis.

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Former Obama Aide to be Mayor's New Disabilities Director

Maria Town February 23, 2017 -- Mayor Sylvester Turner has selected Maria Town to be the new director of the Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities.  Town comes to the mayor’s office from the White House Office of Public Engagement where she served as a senior associate director and the disability community liaison.  She will be filling the position that has been vacant since the passing of Jay Stitley last July.

“Maria has amassed quite an impressive list of professional accomplishments,” said Mayor Turner. “She is energetic and passionate about ensuring that the diversity of the disability community is represented in issues related to healthcare, education, criminal justice reform and community integration. She also brings the unique perspective of the millennial generation.  I am excited to have her join my administration.”

Town worked in the White House in the last two years of the Obama Administration.  She is credited with leading the efforts to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and using creative methods to enhance the Obama Administration’s engagement with the disability community.  Prior to the White House, Town was employed at the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy where she was instrumental in advancing national public policy initiatives focused on improving employment outcomes for youth with disabilities.  Her other previous experience includes working in the Provost’s Office at Emory University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and served as university-wide student body president.

In her personal time, Town is the founder of CP Shoes, a blog dedicated to exploring the intersection of design, fashion, disability and technology.  She is also a former fellow and mentoring co-chair of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the New Leaders Council, a former participant in Mobility International USA’s Young Women with Disabilities Leadership Exchange Program, a former co-moderator of a networking group for young professionals with disabilities in Washington, D.C.  She has also been involved in the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital.

Town has received several honors and awards for her work in the disability community.  She will start work in the mayor’s office on February 27, 2017.